When I was on the way to Ecuador with my mom and my aunt, deplaning in Miami, I noticed a hat under the seat in the row ahead of me. I grabbed the hat and took it to the flight attendant, who sort of halfheartedly called down from the stairs. I decided I’d take the hat and look for the owner myself. It was the row in front of my seat, so I should have been able to recognize her, not that I can ever remember what anyone looks like.
At the foot of the stairs where people were claiming their gate-checked baggage a woman saw the hat and was quite pleased to be reunited with it, though until she saw me with it she was not aware that they had been parted.
Good deed done. All was right with the world.
I told Mom that I had returned the hat to its rightful owner.
“Did you get a kiss?” asked Mom.
“Well, no, Mom. I was just returning the hat to be nice. I wasn’t expecting anything. I’ll get my kiss later. Don’t worry.”
A few minutes later as I was waiting for Mom and Aunt to reemerge from the bathroom, the flight attendant comes over to me carrying my mother’s back pillow, which she had left in her seat. When Mom returned, I returned her the pillow to her. It was then that I got my kiss.
I’m generally pretty protective of the people whom I meet and their stories and use various means (e.g., using pseudonyms) to protect their privacy, but this is my mom. If David Sedaris didn’t write about his family, he would have virtually no material. (I know what you’re saying, you’re saying, “And you, sir, are no David Sedaris.”)
All that to say there is more to the back pillow story.
We arrived in Quito. We made it through immigration. We made it through customs. I was sent to have my luggage scanned. I don’t know whether my mom was, but she followed me. My aunt was directed to follow through without putting her stuff through the scanner.
I helped mom detangle her stuff and get it onto the belt. On the other side, I helped her reclaim it all. We found my cousin’s husband. This is easy in a nation where the average height is under 5’6″, as this guy stands like seven feet tall. OK, he’s not really seven feet tall, but where a tall person is 5’8″, he sure seems like it.
Tall Guy was explaining that there was a guy there waiting to compare the numbers on our claim checks with those on our baggage. I looked and looked. It was gone. The gate agent back in Birmingham had stuck on my boarding pass (normally, I put it in my wallet), and my boarding pass probably got left in the Miami duty free shop. Eventually he just let me go.
As we are loading up the car and it occurs to Mom that she will want to sit down and would like additional support for her back, she starts looking for her back pillow. It is not to be found. It must have been left back at the scanner. Back through the crowds waiting to meet their loved ones. Back through the check point where the guy wanted my claim check. Back through the doors to where the scanner was. No problem. I asked the tall guy what the word for pillow was, hoping I wouldn’t need to use it.
I headed back through the crowd. Mom was coming to help. I managed to convince Mom that it would be easier if only one of us went on this mission, as there was a chance that someone might not come back alive. (That’s a figure of speech, a rhetorical device. If it were literally true that someone might not come back alive, I’d have sent her; I could use the inheritance money.)
With Mom no longer in tow, I walked past the people selling candy, dodged people dragging their luggage out of the airport, I got to the door where I expected to have to explain why I was going back in through the exit door. I had forgotten the word for pillow, so I just walked by the guy who looked like the one to stop me. There was the pillow, on the floor on the other side of the belt from where we retrieved our stuff. There was no way we could have seen it.
I snagged the pillow and returned to the car.
I am considering starting a pool to guess how many more times we play the lost pillow game.